Speech at the Induction and Handover Ceremonies of the Rotaract Club of Manila

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A famous American author, Napoleon Hill, once said – and allow me to quote: “The starting point of all achievement is desire.”

Indeed, it is an honor to join you tonight as guest speaker and inducting officer of the new batch of young leaders who have a burning desire to pursue Rotaract’s overarching goal of being our community’s “partners in service.”

Speaking of legacies, tonight’s gathering poses a short yet provoking challenge to everyone in this room with its theme, “leading a legacy.”

First, I ask you: How do you lead yourselves to your chosen legacy that you intend to leave behind? What mark will speak for you as part of the Rotaract Club of Manila? As part of your communities? As citizens and future leaders of our beloved country?

I understand that your organization is composed of young men and women aged 18 to 30. In other words, you belong to the age group we formally and fondly call millennials. You make up at least one-third of the country’s population.

By next year, you will have taken over 50 percent of the country’s workforce; and by 2030, 75 percent. In other words, in a little over one decade from now, the millennials are all that matter.

Over the years, much has been said about millennials. In fact, Forbes magazine, in one of its articles, explicitly describes that “no generation has been as publicly reviled, praised, misunderstood, and analyzed as the millennials.”

If you try to Google the most common characteristics of people from your generation, the search results will yield words such as: nurtured, driven, lazy, entitled, and in general, narcissistic. Monikered as the “first digital natives,” yours is a generation that literally has the world at its fingertips. The selfie generation, you are generally perceived as spoiled and tech-savvy with affinity to materialism and instant gratification.

Despite all these, I would like to believe that you are much more than what these perceptions suggest.

I see that your constituency is a lot more than what people observe on the surface. I see this generation as a clever one that can actually rise to the occasion if sufficiently challenged and motivated to do good. As Time magazine puts it, millennials have a mantra of what is called “challenge convention,” the drive to seek better ways of getting things done.

You have the faculties and potential molded from the market of ideas and safeguards of freedom and independence. How you would make use of these gifts to lead a legacy of your generation is something we await to unfold.

Speaking before a younger crowd like this brings back nostalgic memories from my early years as a public servant.

Let me share something with you.

When I set foot on the hallowed grounds of the Philippine Military Academy in Fort del Pilar, Baguio City half a century ago, it gave me the opportunity to learn by heart the value of being independent and resourceful, of integrity and leadership in accomplishing the mission in the many facets of public service.

I was a young Second Lieutenant in the defunct Philippine Constabulary, which is the progenitor of the Philippine National Police, when Martial Law was declared in 1972. As to what legacy the late President Ferdinand Marcos left is all up to the succeeding generations of Filipinos to judge. Right now, his legacy appears to be more bad than good.

I was a young Lieutenant Colonel when EDSA People Power Revolution awakened the whole world in disbelief that young people could play a vital role in changing the course of our nation’s history. Many of those young people who massed in EDSA, I can assume, would later become your parents.

Ask them how they felt during those five historic days in February 1986 when you get home after tonight’s event, if they were part of the throngs of young men and women who helped change the course of our nation’s history, they would proudly declare that it was the most memorable part of their legacy.

I became a four-star general, being appointed as Chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in 1999 when most of you were probably young boys and girls. It was not until then that I started taking a long, hard look at my role as a leader as I was leading the entire nation’s police force. I also thought of the legacy that I wanted to leave in the institution and the people I swore to serve and protect.

My personal goal back then was specific and focused. I firmly believed the police organization has no place for what I called the ICU’s – the Inept, Corrupt, and Undisciplined police officers. At that time, I was already thinking of my antidote against the ICU’s. I called it AID – Aptitude, Integrity, Discipline.

I would like to think the best legacy I left in the police institution was the discipline that I instilled in my policemen who I enjoined to stop huffing and puffing with big bulging tummies. Instead, they maintained a maximum waistline of 34 inches so they would be trim and thin when they chased robbers and other criminals.

Also at the top of my list was the elimination of the so-called Kotong Cops. Those who preyed on helpless drivers of public utility vehicles, as well as traders and dealers of vegetables and poultry products, from the farms to the markets.

There was only one marching order: those caught shall be meted the maximum administrative penalty of summary dismissal from the police service, after due process was satisfied, without prejudice to criminal charges they had to face in court. Commanders were held accountable and responsible under the doctrine of command responsibility.

When the so-called EDSA 2 event forced then President Joseph Ejercito Estrada to leave Malacañang after being accused of graft and corruption, I tendered my resignation to allow the new leadership to choose the new Chief PNP.

I was also prodded to run for senator in the midterm elections of May 2001. In a short time and quite noticeably, mulcting policemen came back to the streets with a vengeance, with their tummies manifesting immediate signs of prosperity.

I would say a grateful nation, probably remembering my brand of leadership in the PNP, rewarded me with a Senate seat which I would occupy for two consecutive terms of six years each, or up to June 2013. I am now in my fourth year going into another fresh six-year term to last until June 30, 2022.

All my life in public service, from being an officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to becoming a police officer, capping my law enforcement career as the top cop of the country’s police force, and now as a legislator, I have always adhered to a personal credo that was taught and nurtured by my beloved parents, who through backbreaking jobs and in spite of poverty, had instilled in me during my formative years until they passed away more than a decade ago: What is right must be kept right; what is wrong must be set right.

This desire to uphold and keep what is right, and set and correct what is wrong, carried over to my work in the Senate, particularly in calling for the abolition of the pork barrel system as early as when I first joined the Senate as a neophyte in 2001. Aside from consistently refusing at least P200 million in annual Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), a.k.a. pork barrel, I made sure the amount allocated to me was reverted to the National Treasury, thus saving our government a total of at least PhP2.4 billion every year, until the Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling, declared its unconstitutionality when Janet Lim Napoles’ fiasco exploded right in the faces of congressmen and senators in 2013. And I recall most of them started quaking in their boots, terrified and wondering if they were in the Napoles list of probable indictable respondents in graft cases.

The same pork barrel scam that I first exposed in a privilege speech 10 years earlier in March 2003 prompted my friends and some of my colleagues who asked how I was able to (predict the future). No I did not. I just knew it was wrong then, as it is wrong as any other time.

We talk of moral ascendancy almost always. To the new set of officers to be inducted tonight, bear in your hearts and minds that a leader can only demand from his followers what he demands from himself first. It is called leadership by example. Many leaders fail because they do not practice what they preach. They fail to reform society because they refused to reform themselves first.

I have always thought the number one problem of our country is government – bad government. The solution lies in the face of the problem itself. It is called good government.

And to all the members of this club, the challenge remains. In this fast-paced world, a decade is gone before we even notice it. One day we would wake up to realize that your generation makes up the roster of leaders of our beloved country.

I urge you then to make use of your individual and collective strength to become agents of change in your own little ways. It begins with your deep sense of responsibility to the generation that will come after you.

At this point, allow me to leave you with something to ponder.

As I have said once, vision without correct action is nothing but a lot of daydreaming. On the other hand, action without vision is only rocking the chair, going back and forth, accomplishing nothing.

It is vision with correct action that will bring you together in your work as members of the Rotaract, of your communities, and of our country.

Again, thank you very much and mabuhay ang Rotaract Club of Manila.